Mothers are special. In an attempt to estimate the monetary value of ‘motherly love,’ researchers spent a week following one around. A typical day involved being a cabbie, cook, cleaner and counsellor to name but a few. They calculated the overtime the mother put in, and the unwavering dedication for years on end without any time off (even on family holidays she was fully on-call). After crunching the numbers, they discovered that to employ such a mother would set you back in the region of £100,000 a year!
That, however, doesn’t tell you the full story; the quality of the job is what really stands out. The service of a mother is selfless and unceasing. They rarely stipulate any expectation in return for their services and jump at the opportunity to go beyond the call of duty. What to speak of receiving benefits, even when children act in dismissive and ungrateful ways, the mother happily continues to serve. Their sacrifice unfailingly continues day after day, and even when the child becomes a grown adult the outpouring of motherly love doesn’t subside.
Ancient scriptures explain how our actions towards God and all living beings should emulate this quality of selflessness. By offering our lives in service, unmotivated and uninterrupted, we experience profound satisfaction and fulfilment which otherwise remains elusive. While this may be hard to conceive of, the living example of magnanimous mothers gives us an insight into what real selflessness looks like. Ask any mother and they know the satisfaction they feel. Srila Prabhupada explained how the love between mother and child is the purest form of love found in this world. How wonderful if we could take some moments to remember this, foster a mood of gratitude, and reproduce that selfless spirit in our spiritual endeavours. It would change our life, and it would surely change the world around us.
In the Gita’s final chapter, Krishna brings home the essence of His teachings – it’s service which awakens love, and love which satisfies the heart. The boy-saint, Prahlada, reveals a striking truth about happiness: “One is happy as long as one does not endeavour for happiness; as soon as one begins his activities for happiness, his conditions of distress begin.” In our frantic attempts to find happiness we miss the whole point. Happiness comes from serving, from sacrificing, from selflessly giving. Pleasure derived from anything else will be fleeting at best. Krishna thus implores Arjuna to dedicate his life in selfless service.
It’s interesting to think of a worldview where we are not the centre. How can I not think about myself first? It seems alien, unfulfilling and even scary. Ironically, that utter selflessness brings one to the most profound level of spirituality. Water the roots, and the whole tree automatically becomes satisfied. Feed the stomach and the entire body is nourished.
When our frantic search for selfish happiness stops, and we instead absorb ourselves in selfless service to God and His parts, we perfect our spirituality and experience true satisfaction of the soul. Nothing mystical, magical or esoteric about it: just the simple eagerness to serve. It’s that simple. So simple, Srila Prabhupada once said, that we may just miss it.
“Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you My supreme instruction, the most confidential knowledge of all. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit.” (Bhagavad-Gita 18.64)
18.37-39 – Three types of happiness in this world.
18.55 – Devotional service brings one to the perfectional stage of life.